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Why Have My Pet’s Toileting Habits Changed?

Your dog is toilet-trained and always goes ‘potty’ outside, but suddenly he’s lifting his leg on the furniture. Your cat is a bit messy and sometimes kicks cat litter out of the tray. You’re used to sweeping it up and it’s not a problem, but recently you’ve noticed that she’s been avoiding the tray altogether and urinating in a corner of the laundry. Sound familiar?

Unexpectedly stepping in a puddle of urine is annoying at the best of times, but it’s important to investigate any changes in our pets’ toileting habits to rule out any underlying medical causes and to ensure that your pet stays happy and comfortable.


The first thing to do is rule out any medical causes before investigating from a behavioural perspective. There are a number of conditions that can cause inappropriate urination including:

  • Bladder infection which can cause painful inflammation of the bladder and urethra and an increase in urination frequency.

  • Bladder stones or crystals can cause blockage which can be potentially life-threatening. This condition is most common in male cats but can also occur in dogs.

  • Kidney problems can cause increased water intake and urination.

  • Diabetes also causes excessive thirst and urination.

  • Incontinence in older or injured pets can result in urine leakage.

  • Brain injury or age-related dementia can cause changes in toileting habits.

  • Adrenal gland problems. Diseases like Cushings or Addisons can cause frequent urination.

  • Arthritis pain which can cause discomfort when your pet has to squat or lift their leg to urinate.

After we’ve ruled out any medical causes, it’s time to look for any behavioural causes of inappropriate urination.


The most common behavioural causes of inappropriate urination in dogs are:

  • Fear or anxiety. Overly anxious dogs may urinate to show submission.

  • Excitement. Try to make events such as a home-coming or visitor arrival as calm as possible.

  • Territory marking. This behaviour is more common in intact male dogs, or dogs that were desexed later in life.

  • Lack of house training. Effective toilet training requires patience, consistency and realistic expectations about how long dogs can hold their urine for.


The most common behavioural causes of inappropriate urination in cats are:

  • The litter box itself - Your cat may not like the size, type or location of the tray.

  • Cat litter - There are many different types of cat litter and a sudden change can result in a reluctance to use the tray.

  • Cleanliness - Many cats will refuse to use a dirty litter box, or one that is shared with another cat.

If you have noticed any recent changes in your cat or dog’s toileting behaviour, it’s important to book a vet consultation as soon as possible so that we can investigate the causes and help your pet to feel more comfortable.

Please call us on (03) 9568 2211 or book online here.


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